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Learn about peripheral arterial disease (PAD)

What is PAD?

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) occurs when fatty deposits form in arteries that are outside of your heart. These fatty deposits can restrict the flow of blood. PAD often occurs in the legs. In severe cases, it can lead to amputation. People who have PAD are at greater risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Causes and risks of PAD

Causes and risks of PADPAD can strike anyone, but it is most common in older people. PAD affects up to 20% of people over the age of 70.2 Smoking increases the risk of PAD. Heavy smokers are four times more likely than nonsmokers to develop PAD.3 On average, smokers are diagnosed with PAD 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.3

Risk factors include:3

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Family history of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • High cholesterol
  • Age, gender, race

Symptoms of PAD

Most people with PAD don’t show any warning signs. Only one quarter to one third of people who are diagnosed with PAD have any symptoms at all.3 People who do have symptoms often mistake them for signs of aging.

Symptoms include:3

  • Leg pain when walking
  • Numbness or weakness in the legs
  • Aching pain in the feet or toes while at rest
  • Ulcers or sores in the leg or foot that don’t heal
  • Cold leg or foot
  • Skin color changes in the legs or feet


Links for additional details on PAD:

Remember, every patient is different, and your doctor knows you best. After reading the information on this site, make an appointment to talk to your doctor to help you make the right decision about any treatments or procedures.

What you need to know about paclitaxel, a drug used on some balloons and stents to treat PAD in the superficial femoral artery.
  1. Facts about peripheral arterial disease (P.A.D.). National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Web site. Published August 2006. Accessed September 3, 2019.
  2. Becker G, McClenny T, Kovacs M, et al. The importance of increasing public and physician awareness of peripheral arterial disease. J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2002;13:7–1.
  3. Norgren L, Hiatt WR, Dormandy JA, et al. Inter-society consensus for the management of peripheral arterial disease (TASC II). Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg. 2007;33(Suppl 1):S1-S75.